- Gandhi statue being built in Blantyre as part of construction project with Delhi
- But protesters objected, saying Gandhi did nothing for Malawi and was racist
- They point to writings in which he called black people ‘savages’ and ‘kaffirs’
- Judge granted injunction halting work until a full hearing can be carried out
Construction work has been stopped on a statue of Mahatma Gandhi being built in Malawi after protesters complained he was racist.
More than 3,000 people signed a petition arguing against the statue because Gandhi referred to black people as ‘savages’ and ‘kaffirs’ – an offensive term for a black African – in his writings.
A judge granted an injunction on Wednesday saying that construction should be halted until a hearing could be carried out, or another court order was given.
Construction work on a statue honoring Gandhi in Malawi has been halted after thousands of campaigners claimed he was a racist (pictured, a building bearing his face in Delhi)
In their court application, an activist group ‘Gandhi Must Fall’ said the pacifist’s remarks on black people ‘have invited a sense of loathing and detestation.’
The statue was being built in the city of Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial capital, as part of a $10million construction project in conjunction with the city of Delhi.
The site was due to host a concert hall which would also be named after the Indian independence fighter, and was due to be inaugurated by India’s Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu.
Gandhi spent 21 years living and working as a human rights lawyer in South Africa, starting at age 23, where he developed his political and ethical views.
Gandhi pictured as a law student in London, shortly before he went to South Africa, where he lived for 21 years
While there he faced persecution because of his race and served four prison terms totalling seven months for resisting racially-biased laws.
The statue site was deserted by Wednesday afternoon, according to AFP, and a police officer said workers had been ordered home after the injunction was issued.
Foreign ministry official Isaac Munlo previously defended the statue, saying ‘Gandhi promoted values of simplicity, fight against social evils’.
‘Gandhi is a role model of a human rights campaigner for both Africa and India,’ he said.
Malawi and India established diplomatic ties in 1964 and New Delhi is one of the country’s leading aid donors.
Statues have sparked charged debates in Africa in recent years as the continent wrestles with the legacy of colonialism and history of racism.
In 2016 Ghana’s government said it wanted to relocate a statue of Gandhi on a university campus after professors launched a petition claiming he was racist.
Students in South Africa successfully campaigned in 2015 for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a notoriously racist mining magnate who died in 1902, from the University of Cape Town campus.